From Le salon des ABC refuses. The death of suburbia.

Death of Suburbia?

   Who can’t fondly look back on the days when our suburbs were havens for the warm smells cosily wafting over the hardwood paling fence with Donna, Ernie’s wife from next door, passing some freshly baked scones? Soon after, Ernie would start the Victa and the rattle of many mowers would join all over the place in a peaceful chorus. This idyllic suburban symphony would be repeated in all our suburbs and in all our cities and at every week-end. We knew who we were and where we were. 

All this is now coming to an end. Mowers and their associated gadgetry,  motorized leaf blowers, leaf suckers, edgers, whipper snippers, hedge trimmers; all being pushed to city’s  outer limits miles away. Those still hanging onto their dreams are doing so with grim determination bordering on the heroic, but being pushed to the edge of tolerance.  How long will suburbia with its endless rolling out of subdivisions into the distant sunrise continue to last? Is suburbia’s sun sinking below the horizon? In its last death row, gone forever?

More and more, the rise of medium density with apartments and town house/villas are being rolled out at an ever increasing pace. The closer to the city the more unlikely any of us can afford to live in the separate free standing house with garden and trampoline for the kids. There would hardly be a free-standing house under the one million dollar mark within 5 kilometres of our main cities. 

The push away from a free standing 3 bedroom house with enclosed louvre glassed veranda and big garden is on in earnest. The change of demographics and peoples living choices are inexorably moving towards a more maintenance free mode of housing and towards overcoming the tyranny of having to drive to overcome distance. No matter how we increased the size and bulk of our cars, we seem to have become thoroughly fed up with the endless driving to and fro work, child-care, our al fresco dining experience and entertainment. We are voting with our feet and the weekly footage on TV with queues at the Real Estate Auction for inner city living, proof of seeking a new way of city living. 

Free standing houses that still survived the roving eyes of the spec. builder keen to convert a single block into a dozen townhouses are fetching millions, becoming totally out of reach of the average battler. Not to worry though. Most of those seeking to buy into a closer more intimate inclusive, dare I say it, ‘life-style’ are happily snapping up the town/house/villa or apartment with courtyard or balcony, but within the inner city. They do so because they want to be able to stroll to all the amenities that through the last few decades involved the owning of the cars and subsequent driving…It just became intolerable. Many, especially for those arriving at our shores from other countries, expect to see people on city streets with coffee lounges and cafes, theatres and shops. They reject the idea of mowing or crouching on grass, prising out unwanted bits of other grasses or weeds. 

Some might feel nostalgia over the demise of suburban housings but those have still the choice of going where suburbia still flourishes, and ‘choice’ is now more available than ever before.

The European migrant in the fifties and sixties could only buy or rent into suburbs. The block of land and own house was portrayed, and sold, as being so desirable that rejection was sometimes seen as heresy. Own block, own house, was proclaimed Australia-wide as having reached the very pinnacle of an achievement and dream bordering on a Nirvana.  Without most Australians ever having seen much else in the form of city housing elsewhere; they would often state that our suburbs were the envy of the whole world. Indeed, the ‘best of the Southern Hemisphere,’ the more geographically enlightened, would proclaim with Anzac pride.

There has been some solid arguing with both the defenders of free standing housing and their opponents. Both sides seemingly as eloquent in portraying survival of endless suburbia with free standing housing, with those that predict that more people will choose to live closer to work and other amenities including closer to other people. 

Some defenders of suburbs and free standing housing are even suggesting Australia should consider de-populating ourselves. Well, I’ll be lining up with great curiosity to see how that could happen.

It will be safe betting that our choices will be widened as ever before, but that most of us will move towards a form of housing less reliant on driving. 

The choice is ours and isn’t that what it should be all about?


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